Technical writing can be an introvert’s dream. (I know, I am one!) That said, there are two communities that every tech writer needs to develop to thrive in our work.

  1. Network of co-workers and subject matter experts
  2. Other tech writers for support and professional development

Why are these communities vital? And how does a tech writer go about developing them?

Let’s dive in!

Work network

Technical writing work involves more than just banging out sentences on a keyboard. Anecdotally, I hear over and over a rough estimate among tech writers that really only about 20% of our time is spent actually writing.

So where does the rest of it go? Research!

But unlike the research you might have done in grade school or university, there is a near certainty that a tech writer’s research involves talking to someone.

In my world of software tech writing, that can involve a number of different kinds of people:

  • product managers
  • developers
  • customer support
  • customer success
  • sales teams members
  • executives
  • customers

Interviewing is a skill unto itself, but interviewing is always easier when you already have a rapport in place. So put in the time to meet the co-workers on other teams who may have just that knowledge you’ll need to write up a topic you don’t even know about yet.

Another advantage of building out cross-team networks is the surprising number of times a tech writer can learn about what is coming soon or what needs to be addressed or fixed in the current docs just by talking to someone else over coffee. Yes! Even the watercooler or coffee pot or lunch table can be a research opportunity for the tech writer.

The broader your network reaches in your workplace, the easier it becomes to reach out to the right person to answer a question that comes up when you are in the midst of a tight deadline and need an answer.

Plus, knowing your co-workers just makes working more fun in general. So, don’t be shy!

Other tech writers

Some tech writers have the luxury of working on teams - even large teams - and have a built-in community of fellow tech writers.

For the rest of us, this takes a little more time, planning, and effort to accomplish.

But why seek out a community of other tech writers at all?

  1. Learn what you didn’t know you didn’t know
  2. Benefit from the experiences of others trying to accomplish similar tasks as you
  3. Commiserate with others about the challenges that are part of this line of work while also discovering ways to mitigate them
  4. Get a view of where the career might be heading based on what others are doing in their docs
  5. Ask questions only other tech writers can really grapple with (for example, asking about style guides and whether nesting a nested list in a nested list is really a good method)
  6. Have heated discussions about the best mechanical keyboards right next to impassioned debate over the Oxford comma

In the end, though, it’s just nice to talk to someone who faces the same kinds of challenges and celebrations as you do.

So where can one find a tech writing community if your job does not have a built-in team of writers?

Fortunately, we live in an age where technology has made our world significantly smaller. Personally, I have found great support and community in the Write the Docs Slack community.

Here are some other places to consider:

Whatever groups you find and join, the biggest key is to get involved. Write posts! Have debates! Ask questions! It is when you engage with the other people in community that you start to build connections and really benefit from the other people in the group

Humans are social creatures, and our communities are vital. Our work community at our place of employment and the network we develop with other technical writers outside of our employment are two critical ways we can lean into that natural part of ourselves that demands connection and interaction.